By JCVI Staff

Synthetic Cell-Powered Lotion to Manage Type 1 Diabetes



Early last year we first talked about how researchers Yo Suzuki, PhD, and John Glass, PhD at JCVI set out to eliminate the need for type 1 diabetes (T1D) patients to receive insulin injections to manage blood glucose levels through a novel approach: developing a bacterial replacement for beta cells (the cells that produce and release insulin) that could be applied to the skin as a lotion. Early results suggested that the skin bacterial cells could be engineered to respond to blood glucose levels and produce insulin as needed.

With World Diabetes Day upon us, we would like to share some progress.

  • We have now shown that insulin produced in our skin bacterial cells is active (as tested on mammalian culture cells).
  • We have made progress on ensuring that our skin bacterial cells are safe and easy to eliminate by making them dependent on a thymidine supplement (an essential ingredient of DNA).
  • There are multiple versions of modified insulin. We have implemented a version that acts similarly to the commercial fast-acting insulin. It also has specific activity on glucose regulation as opposed to cell proliferation.
  • We are exploring mechanisms for glucose-responsive activation of insulin production in our skin bacterial cells in collaboration with Stanford University.

This progress has put us on a path to begin testing in mice January 2021 with our UC San Diego collaborators. Testing will validate if our engineered insulin-producing skin bacteria can control blood glucose levels in mice and alleviate problems in diabetic mice with damaged beta cells.